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I called Aspire today they charge $40 Maintenance fee per year. They also charge .15% (15 basis points) on the total balance of your account. Then you have the mutual funds expense ratio depending on what you choose. Investing directly with Fidelity or Vanguard would be better, but we don't have that option. I'm going to look into the NEA direct invest also.

 

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Let me save you some time. Read the page where I ranked the best vendors available in Florida (a great proxy for the nation as a whole).

You're right about Aspire, I documented them here.

You'll find that Security Benefit's NEA DirectInvest is better than Aspire. I documented that plan here.

Finally, you'll find that Vanguard and Fidelity are the best. Vanguard is documented here and Fidelity here.

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Thanks ED. I'm having trouble getting anyone from my school district or Security Benefit to give me information. Security Benefit says they need the Plan ID from the school district to tell me about it. The School district doesn't know what the ID is or what they are talking about and sent me to the third party administrator. The third party administrator acts like they don't know what it is. Imagine that. I'm going to keep trying though.

 

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What information are you trying to get?

I can't remember if I dealt with a "plan number" or not. I do remember when I researched TIAA they looked up my school district, gave me a plan number, and then I could enter that plan number into their website to see the funds available in my plan. Certainly the district/TPA know the plan number associated with their relationship to Security Benefit. Similarly, Security Benefit must know it to and be able to look it up given the school district's name. So yeah, keep pushing. Good luck.

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Chris

Let me offer you my perspective. (Again)

1. Since you have  NEA direct invest and you or your friend are o.k with a basic portfolio than it's  in your best choice in regard to fees. But options are limited. One size does not always fit all.

2. Even though Aspire has  a few low extra costs you can self direct into any fund you want. So if Fidelity zero expense ratio  index fund  or its other low cost index fund  are of interest, you would still be getting a tremendous deal even with Aspire's minimal costs. Plus you can access pretty much any Vanguard fund you want. Either way your costs going this route gives you a very good deal compared to what your colleagues are getting. Not even close. So Aspire by self directing gives you more choices.  The 40$ yearly fee is not unusual among most options . In Virginia our 457b plan offers tremendous  low fee options but also  charges a .19% charge administrative cost per year. It did not keep me from using it. Your friend might prefer a hands off self managed approach. If she does, a  Vanguard index target fund or Fidelity Index target fund would be available by self-directing and requesting a target fund. Certainly you would not use Aspire to tap into a high expense ratio fund. Aspire offers a good deal by tapping into a very low expense ratio fund offered through Fidelity or Vanguard, their index funds. Incidentally both Fidelity and Vanguard's Target funds are composed of index funds.

I realize you are a math person and the numbers add up in  NEA's direction as your best choice. I agree up to a point but you have to look at the bigger picture as to what option serves the investor's needs best. Fee is an important but not the only factor to consider.

Just offering further perspective, and in realty a few basis point more or less won't always make a huge impact on your portfolio when all factors are considered. Whats killing folks is the money drain from these high cost hidden fee annuity products and similar set ups like you mentioned above that your friend was involved with.

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4 hours ago, ChrisC said:

Thanks ED. I'm having trouble getting anyone from my school district or Security Benefit to give me information

Bypass  the school district . They don't know their butt from a hole in the ground in these matters Just go to the security benefit webpage and look for the Direct Invest form , fill it out accurately and completely with signatures as requested and send it in. Also freeze contributions  to any investments you currently have. At a later date you can transfer it over to your preferred company and fund. As we are all aware Security Benefit or even your TPA doesn't want that option to become popular for obvious reasons. Your TPA knows the plan number.. Send the form in even if you can't get a plan number and refer  a copy to the TPA. If you don't hear back in a few weeks start calling the security benefit toll free lines and demand their follow through. The squeaky wheel gets the grease but I hope you won't have to do all that.

I may be cynical but I think the NEA direct invest  option is loathed and delay tactics might be used so you will eventually give up  from frustration and succumb to a commissioned advisor who can then cleverly move you to a different but still inappropriately expensive plan. I've seen this all happen to me and others. If you negotiate from a point of power and knowledge you will win. These outfits prey on the uninformed.

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ChrisC, when you talked to Security Benefit, did you ask for the plan number for NEA Direct Invest, or for Security Benefit? If the former, maybe there is not a number for NEA DI, only for SB?? Likewise, the TPA doesn't have a plan number for NEA DI, only for SB? Maybe each vendor on the list has only one plan number. 

Of course if the above is correct, it probably means that either SB is being intentionally obtuse, or their phone reps are just  incompetent. The plan ID number problem has been reported by other posters.  

I just checked the TPA website for my old district, and there is only a single plan # for each vendor, NOT a # for each plan of each vendor. https://www.ncompliance.com/guest_employervendors.aspx?EmployerID=64

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The TPA representative didn't even know what a plan ID was. They tried to give me the school district's tax ID number. When I called Security Benefit they tried to look it up by the school district name. I am going to try again after the weekend. Hopefully I will get different people on the phone. 

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so why not just send in the paperwork without it and see what happens?  What am i missing? If noone knows what it is maybe you can proceed without it. This is very strange and smells fishy. I guess incompetence is a possibility but that info should be accessible  and available by any of these folks because that  is what an ID is for, IDENTIFICATION. Shouldn't all this info be accessible to all parties involved?

Keep us informed.

 

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I will. I am doing this for a friend so they would have to agree to it, but I am still going to try and get the plan ID even if my friend decides against NEA Direct Invest. My coworker has not contributed very much at all thank goodness, so she may just pay the penalty and put it into a Roth IRA instead. I am also working to try and get our district to change our TPA so that we can invest directly with Fidelity and Vanguard, but that process is moving very slowly and I may never convince them unfortunately. I'll write more about that saga in another post. 

 

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12 hours ago, ChrisC said:

My coworker has not contributed very much at all thank goodness, so she may just pay the penalty and put it into a Roth IRA

Chris I'm not sure she can do this 403b-to IRA transfer until she leaves her employment or reaches a certain age without incurring serious IRS penalties as you mention . Not worth it  in my opinion but if we are talking minimal contributions it might not be a big deal. Still she can however transfer it over to NEA Direct Invest or Aspire once the account is established which is a better idea IMHO. Why throw money away?

I think it will be hard to add Vanguard  directlyi but keep trying. You might have better luck with Fidelity. If you can educate your central office people to truly understand what the 403b cesspool is doing to teachers, you might have some luck changing things. Having said that Aspire and NEA are your way around the other bad choices. Both are superior to the other choices. Unfortunately most teachers will continue to succumb to the commissioned salespeople. A better option might be educating more teachers and staff so they ask for change in larger numbers than just you. There is power in numbers.

Another thing is the amount of saving . My experiences with many teachers during my career is that many don't contribute much. For a supplementary retirement plan like a 403b, it will hardly do teachers much good to add better choices if they don't take better advantage of the lower fees by investing more than they do on average.

Good luck in your endeavors and hope to hear how things pan out for you, your friend, and your fellow employees. It sounds like to me that if there were more Chris C's in your district, things would change quicker.

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Check if your friend's social security number might be her plan number. that might explain why everyone is in the dark. Take a look at a post today by Mr. Jenkins on a different thread;

 

Hi all, it's been a while since my last update. Life got in the way and bouncing back and forth with folks trying get this account setup.  We've been enrolled and have our online login to the Security Benefits Portal.  I've submitted the paper work to HR to begin contributions this month for 2020. Crossing fingers. 

We got caught up for some time trying to figure out what our Plan # was...Security Benefit wouldn't give over the phone and said to check our statements online (nonexistent because we made no contributions).  I eventually found out from our District's account rep for Security Benefit that it was her SS#.  Not a great business practice but, at least explains why nobody would provide it to us.

In summary:

  1. Apply online with the links provided at the top of this threa.
  2. You should get a confirmation letter 7-10 days later
  3. My wife got her account login info from Security Benefit over the phone sometime after that
  4. Setup your investment choices online. There are several Vanguard funds available with .04 - .07 expense ratios
  5. Fill out your HR forms to begin contributions

Tip: 

  1.  If you need to call Security Benefits, ask up front if the person is familiar with their NEA DirectInvest product.  Phone support was indeed helpful if they knew about the product - not so much if they didn't.

Hi all, the journey is complete.  The first contribution arrive in my wife’s Security Benefit account yesterday.  

Very thankful to the forum and members that helped out.

 

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Thanks Tony. I'll try the SS# also if she wants to do that. I'm going to show her the fees associated with NEA and Aspire and then what penalties she would have if she withdrew completely. I'm just trying to show her all her options and let her decide. She has contributed so little she would only pay a few hundred dollars with the 10% penalty and taxes. It's her call.

I will say it is difficult for me to believe that the only fees with NEA Direct invest are $35 admin fee per year and the Mutual fund expense ratio. Are you all sure there are no other fees? Another concern I have is investing with a company that seems to be so incompetent when I call them and they can't give me any answers. All the more reason for us to keep pressing for Fidelity and Vanguard. 

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7 minutes ago, ChrisC said:

I will say it is difficult for me to believe that the only fees with NEA Direct invest are $35 admin fee per year and the Mutual fund expense ratio. Are you all sure there are no other fees? 

I’ve been using DirectInvest for 2 years now and can confirm these are the fees.  In addition, if your account balance is over $50,000, the $35 admin fee is waived

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